Deborah Cooper, left, and Sue Heckrotte are seen with some of the scarves already made for students at Houston Elementary. Their goal is 430, one for each child at the Mt. Airy school.

by Jacqueline Boulden

People in West Mt. Airy have always been known for their community spirit, their willingness to lend a hand to help out their neighbors. So it was no surprise that when the call went out for hand-knit scarves for children at Henry H. Houston Elementary School, where 70 percent of students are under the poverty level, people picked up their needles and started knitting.

“We reached out to people through the Next Door website in January because we knew it would take a year,” said Deborah Cooper, a volunteer at the school on West Allens Lane. Cooper came up with the idea, and her original goal was to provide scarves for 30 kindergarten students. Then she decided to think bigger.

“I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful to give these children a scarf,’ and then I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could give every child at Houston a gift of a scarf for the holiday from their Mt. Airy community?’” Cooper recalled.

While finding people to knit 30 scarves wasn’t a big lift, finding people to knit 430 scarves — well, the scarf volunteers knew that would be a challenge. They have been pleasantly surprised.

“So many people responded to the initial post, and people keep reaching out and giving us more scarves,” said Sue Heckrotte, another Houston volunteer, who is storing the scarves in her home.

People offered to knit a scarf, or two or 10, and they passed along the scarf request to other knitters. By August, at least 70 people were knitting — or crocheting — using whatever worsted yarn they had on hand. More than 120 scarves have been completed so far.

The volunteers have set themselves a December deadline, and the next check-in to collect and count scarves is scheduled for the end of this month. To follow their progress, join or search the West Mt. Airy-Johnson group on www.nextdoor.com, and search “knitters needed.”

“At this time in our lives, we all need a ‘feel-good’ project,” Cooper said. “We know some children will love their scarves, some will lose them, but that’s not the issue. We’ll just make them and give them.”

Jacqueline Boulden is a Weavers Way Working Member. Contact her at jb@bouldenmultimedia.com. This article, which shows that local volunteers really have the knitty gritty, is reprinted, with permission, from The Shuttle, the monthly publication of the Weavers Way stores in Chestnut Hill, Mt. Airy and Ambler.

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